It all started a while back with a call from Kevin Stobbe, publisher of Hooked magazine. Kevin was asking if I could set up a helicopter ice fishing trip and write an article about it. Of course I said yes, but I needed to call my cousin Derek Longley owner of Prairie Helicopters Inc. for approval. Before I could even make the call Kevin calls me back saying wouldn’t it be cool if we could get Winnipeg Jets superstar Dustin Byfuglien to come with us?
Now Dustin Byfuglien had just stated to the media playing in the All Star Game would cut into his ice fishing time. Well Hooked wanted to help him out with that! I’m a huge fan of number 33, but I downplayed it and said yeah it would be cool to fish with him, but to be honest I didn’t think Kevin could pull it off. Thanks to Kevin’s connection with the Mark Scheifele Golf Tournament for KidSport which Hooked sponsors a hole at, he was able to reach out to Dustin’s agent Ben Hankison, who told Kevin that Dustin would definitely be interested. So now I had to get a helicopter and plan everything! I called my cousin Derek Longley and he said absolutely as long as the weather is good for flying. Next I made a call to my good friend Josh McFaddin who does promotional work for FXR.
The day before the trip I had to stop off at Cabela’s Winnipeg to pick up more fishing gear and some hoodies and live bait. Next I had my good buddy Danny Kleinsasser from Danny’s Whole Hog BBQ drop off some of his ham garlic sausage and farmers sausage for the trip, which by the way, is awesome ice fishing food.
Everything was now set up perfectly but one thing was still bugging me. I needed to check the weather. I looked at the weather channel and just my luck it calls for heavy snow and forty kilometre winds! My jaw dropped and I just crashed and burned. Would it happen? The morning of the fishing trip I met up with Josh McFaddin at the Garden City Inn and we were off. It was snowing hard and once we hit the city perimeter we saw just how bad it really was.
Yes, every one, we were going ice fishing in a freaking snow storm! Right off the bat Derek said the helicopter couldn’t fly in this kind of weather, so that totally sucked. So I’m white knuckling it down Highway 8 when I say to Josh maybe we should cancel with this crazy weather. There’s no way I wanted to be the fishing guide responsible for making Dustin Byfuglien miss the All Star Game!
So we asked Kevin to give Big Buff a call and see if he still wants to go. Now I have an all new respect for #33 as his response was “Oh yeah I want to go ice fishing.” So it was still game-on and after a few high fives…we hit the ditch. That’s right we are now stuck in a ditch! I know right? It’s a good thing we were not far from The Netley Colony. Hardy and good friend Darcy Wurtz came and pulled us out.
So we just had to wait for Dustin Byfuglien and his agent Ben Hankinson, plus Kevin and Hooked editor Don Lamont, and then we were off. Dustin showed up first at the Netley Colony so he and his agent Ben came inside for a cup of coffee. Now, just a note, this was a top secret trip but somehow five kids from the colony showed up with hockey cards with Dustin Byfuglien on them. I couldn’t help but laugh and shake my head. Dustin was great with the kids and autographed everything they had and talked hockey with them all. I then told everyone we need to get going because the word was out. Kevin and Don had showed up and we were off.
We arrived at Lake Winnipeg through the snow at Warner Road, then 15 minutes later we made it out to the set of three ice shacks the guys had set up. My ION ice auger made quick work of the ice drilling the holes. Hardy and Darcy had the stove going and we were fishing in about nine feet of water.
Ben Hankison got the first walleye of the day, using a Pelican Lures trolling spoon. There was no denying Dustin Byfuglien’s mad fishing skills with his very cool custom ice fishing rod. He was even out fishing Don Lamont and me. Everyone got some time to talk to the big man and I have to say he’s a stand-up guy If you didn’t know who he was you would never have known he was a big time professional hockey player for the Winnipeg Jets. I asked Dustin Byfuglien one question about a certain former Winnipeg Jets players clothes being tossed into the shower. Now every time the Buffalo Sabers come to Winnipeg it’s track suit night. I asked if he did it and he just looked at me and smiled.
As the day went on and after an awesome fish fry from Hardy and Darcy it finally stopped snowing. Shortly after that we heard a rumbling in the sky. It was my cousin and a pretty cool rockstar looking helicopter. All of a sudden everyone was extremely excited to go for a helicopter ride.
Yes we were catching walleye, eating like kings, and now a freaking helicopter ride. The day just keeps getting better and better. Dustin, Josh, Kevin and Ben hit the sky for over an hour for an epic tour of Lake Winnipeg with my cousin Derek Longley at the controls.
I continued to fish hard to get the big fish for the cover shot. I did manage to get a nice walleye but no Dustin Byfuglien and no Josh to take a photo so back it went but not before a cell phone photo.
Not to long after I could hear that rumbling sound again. This time they did a low fly by which was pretty awesome to see. Big smiles were on everyone’s faces as they got out of the helicopter and some cool photos of big Buff with the helicopter for FXR. We continued to fish hard and got lots of walleye but the big walleyes did not want to come out and play.
That sometimes is the life of a guide, you’re the hero or a zero. At the end of the day as it was getting dark, we decided it was time to go home. We all came together so we all left together. Dustin and I hugged it out and said our goodbyes.
It was in my opinion a day that will go down as one of the highlights of my life. Dustin Byfuglien is a down to earth guy that has a love for fishing and the outdoors. His agent Ben Hankison and I talked a lot about life and fishing. In closing I’m pumped that the Winnipeg Jets resign Big Buff because apart from being a great guy he’s an awesome hockey player and I know I wouldn’t want to play against him. I hope you all enjoyed our adventure with #33. n Special thank you to The Winnipeg Jets, Prairie Helicopters, FXR, Cabela’s Winnipeg, Danny’s Whole Hog BBQ, Hardy Wurtz from Netley colony and good friend Darcy Wurtz, Eskimo, and last on my list but first in my heart Hooked magazine.
HOOKED: How did you come to love fishing?
Dustin Byfuglien: Growing up in Roseau, Minnesota, we always went fishing on the weekends, it’s what everyone did.
What is your favourite fish to try and catch?
I love fishing for smallmouth bass. Muskie comes second.
What is your largest fish caught?
I landed a 47 inch muskie from Lake of the Woods, but hope to break the 50 inch barrier.
What is your most memorable fishing experience?
It happened during a bass tournament at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It was right at the height of the spawn, and thousands of smallmouth were on beds in the crystal clear water. It was a truly amazing experience. I try and make that event every year, and so far I have caught two six pound smallmouth there.
Future plans this year? I won’t have much time to get out before the end of the season but I am really happy to be staying in Winnipeg with the Jets. I appreciate the guys from Hooked getting me out in a helicopter!
What your plans after retirement? I hope to try and get my own fishing show on television and spend lots of time in the outdoors.